My Journey Along the Narrow Way

Posts tagged ‘Christ’

Brand New…

Who doesn’t like something that’s brand new? Like a newborn baby or a puppy or even a new car? Things that are new and shiny and not yet spoiled tend to appeal to all of us. The problem is that no matter how well we take care of the new things we have, they always get that scratch or ding or just get spoiled.

If it’s a new situation or relationship we are talking about eventually we begin to take things for granted, we tend to start noticing the other person’s faults more. The intensity of our feelings tends to cool down.

This also happens with our relationship with God.  When we are new shiny Believers we are so excited. Just being around a new believer is energizing and fun. They want to tell the world about what Christ has done for them. Then after time the newness wears off.  They start to act like everybody else around them.  Or, they conform back to the world, instead of staying transformed.  Why is this?

I think in all these situations it is because of two reasons…everything breaks down in this world because of the sinful state we live in and because we insist on living in our own power instead through God’s power.  In other words the problems is us and sin.

The sinful world we live in and the curse that we are under seems to drag us down constantly. This is the reason everything decays and breaks down.  Just look at your car…is it as nice as the day you bought it…no.  Just look at your body…is your skin as clear and smooth as the day you were born? Again, no.  Decay and a downward trend are the natural order of things in our world.

Also, we try to live our lives and conduct our relationships in our own power. Clearly, this is a terrible idea as we seem to make a mess out of things every time.  We use our limited knowledge and wisdom instead of leaning on the One who knows everything and has perfect understanding and wisdom.

And we forget about the One who makes all things New. 

I find myself longing for the day when all this decay will be over.  Oh how I long for all things to be made new and shiny and away from this curse of sin. 

I long for the better country.  And I hope and trust that even the biggest messes I have made can be recreated and healed by the one who is perfection.

The Oak Tree…

treeWe have a huge, very old oak tree in our front yard. In fact, that tree was one of the reasons we bought our house. I don’t think I would want to live here without it. One thing I have noticed is how solid that tree is. When we first moved in, even before our furniture had been delivered, Hurricane Opal came through Montgomery. I remember watching that old tree all night long just hoping that it wouldn’t come crashing into our (new to us) house. Everything else around us swaying and moved, including the branches of our tree, but the trunk of that tree never moved at all. A few years later, while digging across the yard to plant some bushes, I found out why that tree didn’t move. There were roots the size of my legs deep across the yard front that tree. You see, the deep, strong roots of the tree held it tight and fast when all around it the storms were raging. Just recently a huge limb fell off that tree onto our roof and it got me to thinking about storms in my life and what exactly keeps me rooted.

Several times in the Bible it mentions that when we are rooted in Christ we are just like our big, solid oak tree.

Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. Col. 2:6-7

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD
And whose trust is the LORD.
“For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8

When I read these verses I realize that I, too, can be as firm and steady as that oak tree. But only if I root myself in something strong and permanent in my life. If I only rely on my own strength or the strength of those around me I will surely be uprooted when the storms of life rage. Only in being rooted in something solid and unchanging can I weather the storms.

And boy are there storms in life. Sometimes they are little squalls that come and go quickly like someone hurting my feelings or the car running hot. Other times they are thunderstorms like an argument with someone I care about or having to buy a new refrigerator when we hadn’t planned to. And still other times they seem to be full blown hurricanes like the sickness or death or someone I love or marriage problems. And during those storms I may even feel like I’m falling apart (kind of like a limb falling off the tree), but in reality I’m not because I’m firmly rooted in the love and grace of Christ who will never leave or forsake me.

But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God;
I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever.
I will give You thanks forever, because You have done it,
And I will wait on Your name, for it is good, in the presence of Your godly ones.
Psalm 52:8-9

Becoming…

The other day I got back to our office from an appointment at work and discovered this big, green bug on my briefcase.  I was understandably upset and quite dismayed it had decided to hitch a ride.  Apparently, this is the time of year for these noisy cicada bugs to come out and play.  Uggg…not a fan, especially not hitching a ride with me.

Thinking about the bug I realized that maybe me and Mr. Bug had a little more in common then I would like to believe.  In what way could I possibly similar to a bug you ask?  I believe it is because we both doing the same thing right now…we are becoming.

Of course, he is becoming a better bug.  He is outgrowing his skin and coming out better than before.  That’s what he’s been made to do and that is what he is doing.

What then am I becoming?  I too am becoming better, just like I have been made to do.  Maybe you can’t always see my progress like Mr. Bug’s, but I’m hoping sometimes you can.  I admit that sometimes it’s a pretty slow process, and it can be said that sometimes my progress slides backwards a little bit, but hopefully it is mostly progress forward.

I know there are things each and every day that God is working on me with; growing me, changing me, making me shiny and new in His image.  And like Mr. Bug, I will one day emerge from my old, yucky, brown “skin” and leave it behind.  I will be new and bright and beautiful…and like Him!

Some days I think I can actually see it…just a little of the new me and less of the old me.  Some days I think it will never, ever happen and all I can see is the same old me.  And some days I seem to want to cling to the old me…sometimes it is so scary to change into something new.  I wonder if Mr. Bug feels the same?

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1 Corinthians 15 ~

51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

Prayer…

I’m going to let you in on my big, bad, dark secret…

I’m a bad pray-er.  I don’t want to be a bad pray-er…I really, really want to be a prayer warrior.  It’s just that I’m not good at it and I didn’t really know what to do to get better.

I have tried to various things to become better at praying.  But pretty much what ends up happening is I learn a “system” or way to pray and promptly become legalistic about it. You see, I’m a list maker and checker offer.  Once I have a system, it all because just something to check off the list.

I could never figure out what the problem was.  It’s not just about lack of time or commitment but more about motivation and what it should look like.  But no matter what I tried it just didn’t feel right.

Was God really even listening?  Why would He want to hear what I had to say anyway?  Also, I was pretty sure that every time I repented He was thinking, “Here she comes again, confessing the same thing.  Why can’t she learn and get this right?”.  Of course, intellectually I knew that God wasn’t thinking that…but emotionally, well that was a whole different story.

I have been thinking about prayer a lot lately and really wanted to grow in this area of my walk.  And, as He so often does, God seemed to be telling me a lot about prayer lately as well.  (I don’t know if I’m the only one, but I tend to have periods of “themes” in my life.  What I mean is when God really seems to be trying to get a point across to me everything will relate to the one thing, from the sermons i hear, to the books I read, to the music I hear. It’s like I can’t get away from it until I “get it”.)

Well, apparently God has been teaching me much about prayer in the last several weeks.  Usually I am not quite so deep in my blog posts but I had to share what God has taught me in the hopes that if there are others struggling in this area that it might help you as well.

A week ago our morning sermon was entitled, “Pride Comes Before Denial.”  In this sermon, Shawn, our pastor, spoke about the five manifestations of pride.  While these did not directly deal with prayer they all seem to lend themselves to teach something about prayer, or a person with a poor prayer life.

1. Pride argues with Christ even as it expresses allegiance with Christ.
2. Pride dismisses the truth of Scripture on the basis that God doesn’t know or understand our hearts.
3. Pride justifies disobedience on the basis that God doesn’t know or understand our circumstances.
4. Pride exalts ourselves over others (Shawn’s point spoke about exalting ourselves over those with God-given authority over us but with prayer I believe we just exalt ourselves over others period).
5. Pride confesses complete faith in Christ while still depending on one’s own strength and resources.

The next week the sermon was on Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.  There was much that God spoke to me from this sermon but one thing really stood out.  It was the following statement:  [speaking about the prayer to God in the Garden immediately preceding the betrayal of Christ]…This is where the battle was won against Satan.

So this prayer and the resolve that Jesus felt after the prayer is where Satan was defeated?  This really made me think about the POWER of prayer.  Then a little further in the sermon there was this section about Temptation/Spiritual Tragedy that listed the steps that lead to temptation and tragedy.  The steps were as follows:

1. Self confidence [so sure they didn’t feel the need to depend on God in prayer]
2. Spiritual indifference [apathy in the Christian faith which is most characterized by a lack of prayer]
3. Temptation [lack of prayer equals a lack of dependence on God]
4. Sin [temptation gives way to sin as we fail to put on the full armour of God, including prayer]
5. Spiritual tragedy [falling away from our Lord]

At this point I was feeling pretty bad about myself and beat up about my poor prayer life.  I knew what God was telling me through this exposition of His word was to Pray.  Again and again He was bringing me the reasons why I should pray.  But itg was the same question as always…what to do next?

The next Sunday in MIT once again prayer came up.  We are studying The Holy Spirit and Sanctification and look what is on page 97 of the book we are studying:

If we work without the Spirit {to be sanctified}, we will be frustrated. On the other hand, if we leave it all to the Spirit and do not work, we will also end in failure. But combine the Spirit with work; then increasing victory will be ours. The secret of holy living is found in this combination. With it the Christian can have success.   The first work is to pray for a fuller presence of the Holy Spirit and Christ in his life….We may pray in faith for an increased indwelling of the Spirit in our lives, and we shall receive it.  We must remember that prayer is not simply a pious expression of devotion and thanks to God, but it is also a means of power. …It is necessary to persevere, for example – to go to God again and again with the same request.  It is also essential to go believing and expecting that He will answer our prayers, and not simply desiring an answer, thinking at the same time that God will not grant it….Faith is composed of trust as well as of knowledge.

Once again, I was floored by the teaching that God was sending my way about prayer.  The final piece of the puzzle was soon to fall into place for me.

Later that same evening in Tom’s evening sermon the last piece was given to me.  Tom said the following (I’m paraphrasing because I can’t possible write as fast as Tom can preach when he gets going):  You must labor to obey but it is natural and comfortable when you know God’s love through Christ.  What fuels our prayer lives?  When we are saturated in the knowledge of the love of God, our prayer life will be energized.  In our walk of faith, it is all energized and moved when we see the great love and grace to us through Jesus Christ, and the full assurance of our faith.

And therein was my problem with prayer in a nutshell:  I had a problem reconciling how much God loves me.  Growing up with a “fire and brimstone” type pastor, I tended to think of God more as the disciplinarian type Father.  When I sinned, I would feel like I disappointed Him and would actually avoiding God by not praying rather than face Him in His anger.  But that is such a wrong way of thinking.  That is totally leaving out the Love of God and Jesus Christ.  I was focusing on the wrath of Christ and not the love.

How freeing it is to remember that God loves me, He wants to hear from Me, I am his child and He wants me to talk with Him just a sure as I want my children to talk to me.  I can already feel a great change in the way I am thinking about prayer.

1 Peter 5:7  Cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst,
a  mighty One who will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will  quiet you by His love;
He will exult over you with loud singing.

 

The Warrior…

Once there was a warrior.  He was a mostly good warrior (or so he thought)…he tried to be kind to his fellow countrymen, he fought bravely.  He had a good reputation with everyone as one of the best warriors in the land, defending the land from enemies from every side.  Defeating them with a resounding blow and keeping the land safe for all.  He even had the respect of even the most war-hardened men who fought beside him, for he was brave, strong, and true.

One day the village was beset by a new kind of enemy.  This was no enemy like they had ever seen before.  This was not another wave of brave men in shiny armor sent by a greedy king to procure more land.  No, this was something altogether different.

At first, it was hard to see exactly what was coming against them.  It came in a blazing fire which left everything around it scorched and barren.  But finally some who dared to come within range began to see some of what attacked them.  It was massive, bigger than anything they had ever seen.  It was leathery and seemed to have some type of scales.  The eyes were massive and red.  And its mouth, full of razor-sharp teeth, dripped scalding fluid and breathed out fire.

Finally they realized…it was something they had all heard rumors of but never had seen…a dragon.  No one had ever dreamed they would see one.  No one had ever imagined it would be this massive.  No one knew what to do.

The brave warrior and all of his fellow warriors donned their finest armor.  The sharpened their swords and readied their weapons for battle.  And they left their women and children and they went to meet the beast.

The warrior was once again brave.  He fought long and hard but bit by bit he realized he was losing the battle.  He was strong but the beast just keep on coming.  Oh, it would back up sometimes, and even seem to leave, but it would just come right back again.

It sometimes seemed to the warrior that the harder he fought, the less ground he gained.  And sometimes he just wanted to quit fighting all together.  Maybe just give in to the dragon and be slain.  Or maybe just to join the dragon’s side.  Or maybe…better yet…just walk away, go somewhere safe, and just forget about the dragon, the village, everything.

Just when the warrior thought he could fight no more, when he was at his absolute end, he remembered….

There was one that he knew of, one, that in his battles and day to day live he had forgotten about.  He was there, the one.  Still in the room in the heart of the castle where he was kept by the village.  Secured away.  The village knew he was special, the one, but they also knew that if they let him out he would not be denied.  He would change everything about the life they lived in the village.  And that scared the villagers so they put him in the castle room.

Oh, they would visit with him for the one was kind and gentle. But just a moment with him and they could see, and even feel, the power that the one had just below the surface.

Once the warrior remembered the one in the heart of the castle, he knew what he must do.  He had to go get the one…to ask him to come.  Somehow the warrior knew he was the one who could save them all.

The warrior fought his way to the castle and raced up the steps.  He grabbed the key and flung open the door to the room at the heart of the castle.  And rushing in, he bowed before the one in the room, the one calmly and patiently waiting for him, and begged him to come defeat the dragon.

The one in the room stood immediately.  He asked the warrior why he had waited so long to come and get him.  He asked the warrior why no one remembered his promise to them…that he would always be there for them, their help for every trouble.  The one was sad that they had only remembered him in their deepest, darkest moment…but also glad that they had remembered him in their deepest, darkest moment.

He stood…opened his mouth and spoke one word…and the dragon was no more.

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Lately I have been thinking a lot about sin.  Specifically, my sin…but also about everyone else’s sin as well.  What has really been on my mind is the struggle that goes on between our flesh and our spirit.

I think about the line in the song…”Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the one I love.”  What that tells me is that I am not the only one who feels this struggle intensely sometimes.

Read Paul and you definitely see that he constantly felt the tension of this struggle in his life:

“For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.”  Romans 7:15

For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” Galatians 5:17

Just like the warrior, I too am a warrior.  I war day and night against my flesh.  The flesh that the dragon controls…the flesh that used to control me.  It doesn’t control me anymore but sometimes that is hard to see.  Sometimes it seems like it still does.  But I fight it…struggling in my own power.  And like the warrior, I grow weary.  I want to give up.

Isn’t it sad that I let it get to that point?  Why don’t I go to the One?  The One patiently waiting for me in my heart?  Waiting for me to asked him to come and slay the beast that is my flesh…

Why do I insist on fighting the battle between flesh and spirit on my own.  Christ has lovingly and patiently told me time again through His word that He will save me from my sin, He will make me holy.

For again Paul says in Romans 7:24, “O wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?”  And he answers in verse 25, “I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

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I am not skilled to understand.  What God has willed, what God has planned.  I only know at His right hand, stands One who is my Savior.

I take Him at His word and deed:  Christ died to save me this I read.  And in my heart I find a need, for Him to be my Savior.

That He would leave His place on high, and come for sinful man to die.  You count it strange, so once did I, before I knew my Savior.

Yes, living, dying; let me bring my strength, my solace from this Spring.  That He who lives to be my King, once died to be my Savior.

My Savior, My God
Aaron Shust

But God…

People ask all the time what my favorite verse is in the Bible.  There are so many to choose from but if I had to pick one it would be Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”  During the hardest times in my life I CLING to this verse.

But when I think of what words of Scripture are most precious to me, it would have to be this:  But God.  These have long been my absolute favorite words in the Bible.  And I see I’m not alone.  Just this last Sunday Shawn (our preacher) mentioned those two words in his sermon as well.  Google these two words and multiple postings, including many blogs, pop up.

For being two small little words, only 3 letters a piece, they are very powerful words.  What they say again and again in the Bible is:  man does _________ (which is usually something selfish, hurtful, stupid, etc.); BUT GOD __________ (fixes it, works it all for our good and His glory, hits us upside the head with a 2X4 so we understand, etc.).  How can anyone NOT love that?

For example…I was running away from God and his enemy.  I was literally shaking my fist at him…but God loved me, pursued me, called me to Himself.

Psalm 49:14-15

14 Like sheep they are laid in the grave;
Death shall feed on them;
The upright shall have dominion over them in the morning;
And their beauty shall be consumed in the grave, far from their dwelling.
15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave,
For He shall receive me.  Selah

I am mortal and I will one day die…But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave.

Acts 13:29-30

29 Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb. 30 But God raised Him from the dead.

Jesus’ earthly body died on the Cross, But God raised Him from the dead.

Romans 5:7-8

7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

We might lay our life down for another, but only if we feel like they are worthy…But God died for us – worthless, angry, sinful worms.

1 Corinthians 10:13

13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

We are tempted and fail repeatedly…but God is faithful to help us either escape or bear the temptation.

Psalm 73:26

26 My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

We will rot and die…But God will redeem us forever!

I fail and fall repeatedly…But God
I hurt others and am selfish…But God
Satan attacks and tempts us…But God

I mean, how can you not LOVE this?  It reminds me again and again…it is NOT me.  None of it.  Nothing I do.  It is ALL God.  He is sovereign, He is faithful, He is in control.  And all I can say is Thank God!  If my faith was left up to me I would stumble before I finished typing this blog post, mostly likely before I finished typing this sentence.  But God is faithful to the end.

No matter what happens in my life, when I’m down, or disappointed, or I fail, I cling to these two little words….BUT GOD.

That Kind of Woman…

 I’ve always wanted to be one of those women like my mother was.  In fact, pretty much my entire adult life has been spent trying to figure out how to be her.  You see, my mom was one of those women that are so rare.  She had that “quiet and gentle spirit” that the Bible speaks about.  She was loved by all: I never once heard anybody at anytime say anything negative about her.  She was always calm, no matter what.  I never, ever heard her say one negative thing about anyone. 

For example, there was this one woman in our church growing up.  She had really bad arthritis, the kind where her fingers looked mangled.  She was absolutely the hardest person to be around.  She was extremely negative all the time.  However, my mother agreed to drive her to and from her doctor’s appointments.  My mother actually seemed to enjoy her time with “Miss Emma”. 

I want to be that way.  I want to be content, no matter my circumstances.  I want to take joy in everything I do…without grumbling.  The problem is, that is not my personality naturally and I don’t know HOW to be that way.

1 Peter 3:3-5, speaking to women, says:

3Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 5For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful.

That really, really is convicting to me.   And really, really impossible for me to attain.  You see, I’ve never been that kind of woman.  I’ve never been called gentle or had someone refer to my quiet spirit.  But I really want to be that woman.  So, I’ve asked God to help me in this area. 

Recently, I’ve had some success in this area.  I realize it is all God’s work, and God’s alone.  But He has helped me keep quiet lately when I was upset and stressed.  He has helped me tame my tongue.  However, I realize that this is definitely a work in progress.  And it will take a long, long time.  But, Lord willing, maybe one time I will be that kind of woman.  And one day someone will tell me I remind them of  my mother, or even better, that I remind them of Christ.

Proverbs 31:30

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
       but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.